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Junta bans gatherings, declares two days of mourning

Video by Shirli SITBON

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-09-30

Guinea's military ruler has banned mass gatherings while also declaring two days of national mourning, after a brutal crackdown on protests in which rights groups say at least 157 people were killed and more than 1,000 were wounded.

Guinea’s military regime banned all mass gatherings Wednesday in a bid to defuse protests after a brutal crackdown by soldiers on an opposition rally, in which rights group say at least 157 people were killed. Expressing “regret”, the junta also ordered two days of national mourning.

"Any mass gatherings which are of a subversive nature are banned," junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said in a statement on state television on Tuesday. He added that an investigation had been ordered.

But opposition leaders remained defiant and the situation was tense in the west African country’s capital, Conakry, where FRANCE 24 correspondent Alhassan Sillah reported soldiers patrolling the streets and firing bullets in the air.

The head of the opposition Rally of the People of Guinea party, who is currently in New York, called for fresh protests and told the BBC that he would return to “mobilise” the people against the junta.

“We can't fight and then draw back, we fought for change so we can't retreat now”, said Conde.

Guinean human rights groups said that at least 157 people were killed when troops broke-up a huge opposition rally on Monday. Thousands of protesters had gathered in a stadium, in defiance of a previous ban, to oppose junta leader captain Moussa Dadis Camara’s stand for election in a presidential vote scheduled for January 2010.

Camara seized power in December 2008 after the death of President Lansana Conte. He promised to ensure transition to civilian rule but has recently angered critics by not ruling out standing in a January election.

Massacre and rape

Soldiers are accused of hiding bodies killed in during the crackdown in a bid to hide the scale of the massacre, according to opposition and rights groups.

Rights activists reported three more deaths for a second day Tuesday, in neighbourhoods outside the Guinean capital Conakry. According to Thierno Maadjou Sow, an official with the Guinean Organisation for the Defence of Human Rights, soldiers also kidnapped victims from hospitals.

Mamadi Kaba, head of the Guinean branch of the African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO), said the rapes of women began in the Conakry stadium.
"The military raped women" at the stadium and later at army barracks, police posts and other parts of Conakry, Kaba said, adding that there were reports of new rape attacks by soldiers on Tuesday.

‘Very very sorry’

In an interview with French radio RFI on Tuesday, Camara claimed he felt “very, very sorry” about the death of protesters, but he didn’t clarify whether he would take part in the 2010 presidential vote.

He said "this is the first time such a thing has happened in Guinea," and accused opposition leaders of fomenting unrest by "distributing money to the youth to incite them to revolt."

The scale of the bloodshed has already prompted stern international condemnation. Former colonial ruler France slammed the “violent repression exercised by the army against the opposition and civil society during a peaceful demonstration” and immediately suspended its military cooperation with the country.

Date created : 2009-09-30